Mikael Ohlsson Interview

By: Senduran Bhakthakumaran - Published: Apr 16, 2012 • References: ikea and liu.se
Mikael Ohlsson is the CEO of the world-renown IKEA Group. This home furnishing company is known for its flair in being able to provide simple solutions for competitive modern decor. He began his position on September 1, 2009, and continues to uphold the crucial values of IKEA that have built its overall reputation. What’s more, he has a personal reputation for being a completely approachable and hands-on representative of his organization.

3 Questions with Mikael Ohlsson

1. How do you keep your work on the cutting edge?

We try to stay very close to changes and developments in societies all over the world that influence people, their lives, living and life at home. Especially what influences people with normal income levels, people living with children and living in small spaces. Based on this, we get insights, ideas and develop solutions.

Last year I went to India to visit some of the villages where the IKEA Foundation runs projects together with UNICEF. I had the opportunity to talk with women in the villages. I asked them what was most important for them in their life. They all had the same answer, “my home and my children.” Universal answers, I think most of us would say the same. The needs and dreams for beautiful, functional home furnishing at affordable prices are close to endless – this is a strong driving force.

Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people. The possibility to actually change many people’s everyday life for the better is a true inspiration and innovation driver for us at IKEA.

We always strive to be in touch with reality, and it is there we constantly see new opportunities to improve and do things a little better. People’s homes, the interaction in our stores and on the floor in the factories are important sources of new inspiration.

I try to meet as many of our co-workers as possible all over the world. To listen and see their reality always inspires me. We have so many opportunities to become even better in the future.

One specific and important area for the future is sustainability. I see sustainability as an important catalyst for our future innovation, it challenges our mindset and forces IKEA to take the really big steps. We want a sustainable life to be exciting and affordable to the many.

These are some examples of what keeps my work “on the cutting edge.”

2. How do you reset yourself to become creative (do you have any rituals?)

A big source of inspiration, and a way of continuously remembering what is important, is meeting co-workers, suppliers, customers and other people all over the world -- to listen, learn and share experiences. That gives much more than too many formal meetings. I always try to work in an informal and inclusive way. That also gives energy.

With a family with three children as well as their friends, the discussion and the debates round the dinner table are always very enjoyable and always give reflections and thoughts. The young generation’s insight in society and use of technology to learn is just amazing.

Besides this, photographing people is one of my biggest interests. I try to learn and develop my skills and it is a fantastic hobby as it is a never-ending journey. Trying to capture people in different ways is to me very stimulating. But maybe, a good night’s sleep is my most important way to recharge and to become creative. I am very fortunate; I fall asleep easily and sleep well the whole night.

3. What is an example of a time where you have thrown away an existing idea to force yourself to find something new?

We have very creative and innovative co-workers who are curious and continuously look to improve our offer, whether it comes to new innovations or improving already existing products.

Some of our ideas may sound excellent and good business at a first view. The true test is if they correspond with our vision and our values. If not, even the best idea remains an idea at IKEA. It might sound tough, but staying true to our vision and values is a great navigation tool. It opens endless opportunities, but also helps us to say no.

And maybe that is the best example, our way of everyday prioritizing and focusing our attention. We call it “Kraftsamla” – to focus our attention.